Alone in Berlin (film)

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Alone in Berlin
Seul dans Berlin.jpg
French release poster
Directed byVincent Pérez
Produced by
Written byVincent Pérez
Achim von Borries
Bettine von Borries
Based onEvery Man Dies Alone
by Hans Fallada
StarringEmma Thompson
Brendan Gleeson
Daniel Brühl
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyChristophe Beaucarne
Edited byFrançois Gédigier
Distributed by
Release date
  • 15 February 2016 (2016-02-15) (Berlin)
  • 8 September 2016 (2016-09-08) (Germany)
  • 23 November 2016 (2016-11-23) (France)
  • 10 March 2017 (2017-03-10) (United Kingdom)
Running time
103 minutes
  • Germany
  • France
  • United Kingdom

Alone in Berlin is a 2016 war drama film directed by Vincent Pérez and written by Pérez and Achim von Borries, based on the 1947 fictionalized novel Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. The novel's characters Otto and Anna Quangel are based on Otto and Elise Hampel. When their son dies in France, the couple start writing postcards to urge people to protest against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. The film stars Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, and Daniel Brühl. Principal photography began on 27 March 2015 in Berlin. It was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.[1]


In 1940, a working-class couple in World War II-era Berlin, Otto and Anna Quangel, decide to resist Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, after receiving the news of the death of their only son. Their growing resistance to the regime is also strengthened by the fate of an old Jewish woman living in their building. Although the official deportation of Jews to death camps had not yet started, Jews have no recourse to any legal protection. Ruthless Nazis — and "non-ideological" common criminals — use the opportunity to loot the old woman's apartment with impunity. Despite the efforts of the Quangels and other kind neighbors to help her, the persecution ends with the old woman jumping to her death from a high floor window.

The couple starts writing postcards to urge people to stand against Hitler and the Nazis and protest against them, and furtively placing the cards in public places - a capital crime.[2][3] Their first card reads: "Mothers, Hitler Will Kill Your Son Too". At first, Otto wants to do it all by himself, warning Anna, "They hang women, too!" She, however, insists on taking part in this dangerous activity. While in the beginning of the film the couple's marriage seems to have dried up, as they are unable to console each other for the loss of their son, their shared risk and commitment brings them closer. In effect they fall in love with each other again.

Escherich is the police inspector charged with finding the source of the postcards.[4] He is a professional police detective, acting out of career pride rather than Nazi ideology. During three years of painstakingly gathering clues about the "Hobgoblin" (as he calls the mysterious writer of the postcards) he develops an increasing respect for this elusive unknown opponent. Because of his lack of progress, Escherich is beaten up by the obviously impatient S.S. senior officer. He is forced to summarily execute a man whom he is certain has no connection with these subversive postcards.

After some postcards accidentally fall from his pocket when he is at work, Otto is exposed and arrested. He remains stoic about the certain death sentence awaiting him, and tries in vain to take all the blame on himself and save Anna. After the couple has been executed, Escherich is alone in his office. He gathers up the couple's hundreds of postcards, scatters them from the open window of the police headquarters, and shoots himself. The film ends with the image of the postcards swirling in the wind, falling down on the Berlin streets and being picked up by passersby.



Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone was published posthumously in German in 1947 and was praised by Primo Levi, writer and survivor of Auschwitz, as "the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis".[6] It was previously adapted as Alfred Vohrer's Everyone Dies Alone in 1975,[4] along with West and East German made-for-television dramas in 1962 and 1970.

Marco Pacchioni and Vincent Pérez bought the rights to the novel in 2007.[2] Upon publication of its English translation in 2009, it became a "surprise bestseller" in both the United States and United Kingdom.[6]

On 14 May 2014, it was announced that Pérez would direct the film based on an adaptation he cowrote with Achim von Borries.[2] Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance, and Daniel Brühl were named for the principal roles.[2] It was produced by X-Filme's Stefan Arndt and Uwe Schott (German rights), Master Movies' Marco Pacchioni (French rights) and Filmwave's Christian Grass and Paul Trijbits, and James Schamus.[2] On 26 March 2015, Rylance was replaced by Brendan Gleeson.[5]

Other crew members included cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos, and editor François Gédigier.[5] Alison Thompson handled most foreign sales for the film through her Sunray Films,[7] although Pathé released it in French-speaking areas.[7]

The director dedicated the film "in memory of Otto and Elise Hampel guillotined for having written and circulated cards against the Nazi regime between 1940 and 1943."


Principal photography on the film began on 27 March 2015 in Berlin.[5][4] It was also shot in Cologne and Görlitz.[4]


The film Alone in Berlin was first screened at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2016. Tara Brady of the Irish Times wrote:

"Despite a terrific triumvirate of performances from Gleeson, Thompson, and Brühl, and soft lensing from cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, Alone in Berlin is hampered by stodgy pacing, budgetary constraints, and drab interiors. Against this, the film offers a fascinating and timely blueprint for political dissent, a methodology that connects with pamphleteering, graffiti, and memes."[8]

In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw wrote, "More than once, 'Alone in Berlin' reminded me of Fritz Lang's M."[3] The film received a score of 52 on the critical aggregator website Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Berlinale 2016: First Films for Competition and Berlinale Special". Berlinale. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kemp, Stuart (14 May 2014). "Cannes: Emma Thompson, Daniel Bruhl Join 'Alone In Berlin'". Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b Bradshaw, Peter (29 June 2017). "Alone in Berlin' review – couple wage a quiet war against Hitler". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Roxborough, Scott (26 March 2015). "'Alone in Berlin' Starring Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson Begins Shoot". Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Barraclough, Leo (26 March 2015). "Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson Movie 'Alone in Berlin' Starts to Shoot". Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b Dalya Alberge, "Hans Fallada's anti-Nazi classic becomes surprise UK bestseller" The Observer (23 May 2010). Retrieved 6 March 2012
  7. ^ a b Kemp, Stuart (29 April 2014). "Cannes: Alison Thompson to Launch Sunray Films with 'Alone in Berlin'". Retrieved 29 March 2015.
  8. ^ Brady, Tara (30 June 2017). "Review: 'Alone in Berlin': Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson offer a timely blueprint for dissent". Irish Times. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Alone In Berlin critic reviews". Retrieved 11 July 2017.

External links[edit]